The 2014 Content Marketing Imperative

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We’ve heard it time and time again: according to the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) almost 60% of the buyer journey is complete before prospects reach out to vendors.

And according to Harvard Business Review, “Solution Selling is Dead” because talking about our products and our solutions is no longer good enough. It may even hurt us in the buying process.

Why? Because our buyers are too smart. They see right through these self-serving tactics. They are looking for brands that put buyers first.

They are looking for brands that know how to connect on a human and emotional scale. In fact, the Corporate Executive Board’s latest report shows that “emotion beats promotion” by a factor of 2 to 1.

  • 78% of CMOs think content is the future of marketing  (Demand Metric)
  • 60-70% of B2B marketing content goes unused (Sirius Decisions)
  • Only 10-20% of a company’s website content drives 90% of its Web traffic, and only 0.5% of a website’s content drives more than 50% of its traffic. (InboundWriter)

So what do we do now? The answer is easy: content marketing.

Content marketing is the process of creating content that our customers actually want or need.

Content marketing meets the needs of your buyers across ALL phases of the buying cycle:

  1. There is the largest number of potential buyers in the early stages. So there should be more focus on early stage content to drive interest and awareness.
  2. There are more potential buyers in the middle of the buying process than in the latest stages. So there should be more focus on engagement than on the latter stages of the buying process where potential buyers are looking to understand what we sell and for how much.
  3. Late stage content is still needed. It’s really a question of whether resources are aligned to the buying process.

Content marketing is how you attract buyers instead of paying to reach them. It is more effective. It is aligned with buyer needs. But it also may seem counter-intuitive. (“We are here to sell stuff, right?”)

Content marketing is a mindset that starts with the question “what do our buyers want or need?” It then cycles through the process of analyzing keywords (what people search for) and social trends, finding the research, experts, tips and tricks that answer those questions. And then process starts all over again when you analyze what works and use those insights to drive continuous improvement in the next round of content creation.

Content Marketing is an equal portion of creation, curation and syndication.

  • You can’t have all the answers. And likely won’t have enough funds to create all the content you need. But the unique insights and point of view you do have should be the focus of content creation.
  • Curation is the art and science of finding the experts, insights and research from others. It is a much more strategic function than most people think and it is not just about licensing content. Effective content curation will allow you to add your perspective and to package the content for your buyers. It allows us to cover other people’s content like a journalist covers the news.
  • And finally content syndication (or distribution) is just as important so we can get all the great content we create and curate and expose it to a larger audiences.

Don’t believe me? According to BtoB Magazine “Content Marketing” is one of the top priorities for marketing in 2014. Content marketing was listed as the top priority by the Altimeter Group research.

Take a look at the number of  “Content Marketing” searches per month on Google. It was flat for years. And then in January 2011, a sharp increase began that shows content marketing is now 5 times more important to brands than ever before.

Content Marketing Search Engine Growth

And if you are still skeptical, here’s more statistics for you data geeks out there (like me):

  • 93% of B2B Marketers are using content marketing (Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs Study)
  • 42% of B2B marketers rate their content marketing efforts as effective (Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs Study)
  • Only 44% of B2B Marketers have a documented content strategy (Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs Study)
  • 73% of B2B Marketers have someone in charge of content marketing strategy. (Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs Study)
  • B2B Marketers use an average of 30% of their marketing budget 13 content marketing tactics across 6 social platforms (Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs Study)
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.  (Demand Metric)
  • The website conversion and qualified lead conversion rates for brands using content marketing is 6 to 7x higher (Aberdeen)

So what do you think? Will you make 2014 the year of content marketing at your company?

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Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

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